A couple generations ago, the Pittsburgh media focused on the Steelers, the Steelers, the Pirates and then the Steelers. Radio shows focused on callers, not knowledge. TV shows which emulated the caller driven formula began. The Pittsburgh media culture was born.
Enough. It’s time for less callers and more hockey content, everywhere.
Caller driven shows were created for a market which currently exists only in comedy shows and assumption: Yinzer stereotypes. And because Pittsburgh is an old-school town, sponsors fuel media addiction to programming for people whose numbers make them a small minority.
How’s your mullet?
Fast forward to 2017, how much is truly different from programming of the last century? In an era of unprecedented information dissemination, broadcast media has failed to keep up. I do not levy this as criticism against my colleagues or friends who make honest livings in broadcast media. I extend it as a challenge to be conscious that large segments of the sports landscape are unrecognized.
The Yinzer stereotype suffocates perception at the expense of reality. Pittsburgh has changed.
To back-up, the impetus of this thought was spending a few days in Columbus. The local networks covered the Blue Jackets and Cleveland Cavaliers games with zeal. Instead of night time programming featuring 30 minutes of callers on all topics, local networks had unique programming: A sports anchor peppered former players with questions, sought analysis and knowledge.
While Jody Shelley, the Blue Jackets color analyst, educated viewers with in-depth post game coverage on Fox Sports Ohio (much like Root’s solid coverage), the local networks did the same. On the Fox affiliate, Former Blue Jackets center Andrew Cassels talked in-depth about the Blue Jackets forecheck, how the Penguins beat it, and where it succeeded as the blond anchor woman fired intelligent questions.
Informative content. Not a single caller. It was glorious.
In a generation, Columbus will be a hockey town, not just a Blue Jackets town. The programming was that good.
And the only reason Pittsburgh doesn’t have the equivalent programming: Belief. Belief that hockey isn’t as big as the baseball and football. Belief that “yinzers” from 1985 are still the dominant sports consumer. And, most disappointing, the belief those “yinzers” don’t want intelligent programs.
It’s an ugly stereotype which doesn’t ring true.
If I have heard the phrase, “the yinzers will love this,” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. It’s usually not complimentary. We’re held hostage to trends which were cemented 30 years ago. In Pittsburgh, caller participation is viewed as preferable programming because… it always has been.
Blood nearly trickled from my ears when I was once told by a Pittsburgh personality and friend, “Danny, don’t make ’em think,” in response to a radio segment I did describing the Penguins forecheck.
Really, is that what you want?
Lost in the chase for cash to keep the lights on at traditional media outlets, are the exploding younger demographics of Pittsburgh, transplanted residents and a changing culture.
The beauty of this city is core values are passed down, but that doesn’t mean everything is the same. Or even similar. Pittsburgh is now home to internet titans, cutting edge medical science and hundreds of thousands of sports fans who did not grow up with “Yoi, and double yoi!”. Those sports fans weren’t weened on phrases like, “caller, what’s on your noodle?”
The new consumer has Twitter, Facebook and texting. They don’t need the radio or TV to share their opinions or hear what others think. They do not turn on the radio or TV to hear one of three dozen show regulars offer their opinion. They want valuable content, which is real news and analysis from someone who knows their subject. And debate between people who know their subject.
Pittsburgh has some of the smartest sports media personalities. Trust me. But programs are not designed to showcase their skill. There are exceptions, like Paul Zeise at night on 93-7 the Fan, but not enough.
Credit where it is due: Mark Madden owns this market, in part because of his sharp wit, but in other part because he slaughters sacred cows while offering strong hockey content. While he slaughters sacred cows, the audience has been in on the joke; his show mocks the “yinzer” stereotypes whose contribution to hockey talk begins and ends with “shoooot!!”
DKPittsburghsports.com is another prime example. Love him or not, DK owned hard sports reporting in this market. He too slaughtered sacred cows while also including heavy hockey content.
Coincidence they both feature strong hockey content and less Steelers hype? Nope. Is it coincidence the Penguins blogosphere is one of the strongest in the world? Again, nope.
The only way change will occur is if the audience, you, begin to demand more hockey. Consumers are already voting with their feet, their eyes and ears. Perhaps the next legacy outlet which tries something different will be rewarded.
I hope so. I really, really hope so.